Is there room for improvement when it comes to productivity in Oxfordshire?
That was the question posed to a panel of experts at the latest in a series of Q&A sessions run by Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Leading the discussion and taking questions from the audience at the July 9 event were OxLEP chief executive Nigel Tipple, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus director Angus Horner and Placi Espejo, head of commercial sales and marketing at Heyford Park Management.
Placi Espejo said having looked at the example of Cowley-based logistics giant Unipart, it was clear productivity is linked to happiness at work.
She pointed out happy employees perform and engage better and are therefore more productive.
Talking about Oxfordshire’s future labour force, Nigel Tipple said it was important to drive future skills and “although we don’t yet know what we will need for the future, we need young people to be curious.”
He said people wanted to enjoy work while they were there and feel they were “making a difference and having some ownership in what they are doing”.
Angus Horner agreed happiness was a factor influencing productivity and believes “a sense of mission and purpose are hugely important.”
He pointed out: “I’m surrounded by people who turn up here [Harwell Campus] because they want to be part of this community that’s improving the human condition.
“Whether that’s wrestling with climate change or stopping children dying of diseases, they are motivated by massively powerful factors.”
Placi Espejo pointed out employers have to do things differently when recruiting the next generation, both in terms of how candidates apply for jobs and how they are assessed.
She pointed out Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2015, expect to provide CV’s and apply for positions via LinkedIn or other social media, rather than in person or over the phone.
“Employers need to be more flexible about what we offer and how we offer it,” she said.
Nigel Tipple agreed, saying flexible working hours were important.
He also said rather than waiting for a workforce to appear, some Oxfordshire businesses were taking active steps to develop it themselves, through initiatives such as apprenticeships and continuously working on building strong relationships with schools and sixth-form colleges, therefore producing a “pipeline of talent.”
He also praised the work of Tap Social, as a business which “through allowing people to develop their own skills is creating an outcome that make a difference.”
He described the Oxford-based craft brewery which gives training and employment to people currently serving or recently released from prison sentences, as having a “transformational impact on individuals” by helping them build a CV that allows them to move on.
The biggest increase in population will be among the over-85s, he pointed out.
And he suggested that employees who are 50-something now would likely be looking at second or third careers.
He pointed to the link between experience and transferable skills, adding: “We have a hidden workforce and we underestimate that opportunity.”
As the business economy in Oxfordshire continues to grow, Angus Horner said it was vital to bring the community along with it.
He said: “People think growth is a bad thing – something that’s being done to them rather than for them.
“That’s why we need a more collaborative approach.”
He added: “It’s not a case of the knowledge economy is over here but everyone else is over there.
“It needs to be the case that everyone gets lifted up.”
Explaining to people more about the potentially life-changing breakthroughs that are being worked on at Harwell and other places across the county, would make a difference, he believed.
The event, held at the European Space Agency on Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, was chaired by broadcaster Howard Bentham.
It is part of a series of regular Q&A panel discussions on a variety of business-related subjects.
Like so many networking groups STEM advisers began with a group of like-minded people with shared interests meeting up regularly over a few drinks. STEM Advisers Hub now draws in practitioners and service providers from a wide geographical area who are working in the science, tech, engineering, maths, medical and manufacturing sectors consultants.